Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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What to Make of Long Lines at Polling Places

I just received an email from a friend inquiring about the long lines at polling places--in particular, the claim that Democrats waited 10 hours at some places to vote. My response is two-fold:

1) First and foremost: from a legal standpoint, the delay and any voters discouraged from voting did not make any difference as to the outcome of the election, and therefore it is not a basis for any remedy—such as failing to count the electoral votes. The margin of victory in Ohio was more than 118,000 votes. Kerry supporters simply can’t meet their burden of demonstrating that there were more than 119,000 discouraged Democratic voters.

2) Picking up on the italicized language, in the materials that I have seen, the objectors fail to take into account delays in polling places that were more heavily Republican, or to address the simple statistical reality that even in Democratic strongholds like Cuyahoga County, there would be a reasonable number of Republican voters who were also discouraged by long lines. In other words: not every discouraged voter was a Kerry voter, and the challengers need ever discouraged voter (and then some) to be Kerry voters in order to make a case.

Part of the problem with this entire line of reasoning is that it assumes the possibility of perfect elections. In every election, there will be some errors--generally about a 3 percent error rate. In 2000, the local error rate mattered because the margin of victory was razor thin. This year, however, the election was not close enough for any errors to make a difference, but the Michael Moore left is still clinging to errors--both real and largely imagined--in the vain hope that it proves the election should have gone otherwise.

It is also worth noting that voting problems can arise from the best of intentions. For example, in recent elections, some of the longer delays have been attributable to the use of newer voting systems (such as touchscreen systems), which were put into place to assure greater accuracy, but which led to delays because of technical problems or user unfamiliarity.

Discussions - 4 Comments

This is a ridiculous publicity stunt. Kerry lost Ohio by a huge margin. Why aren’t any of these people clamoring for an investigation into irregularities in Pennsylvania, a state that was worth more electoral votes, and that Kerry won by a smaller margin? Why didn’t they complain when Al Gore won Wisconsin by a few thousand votes, when we all knew party activists were bribing people for their votes. (Yes, that claim is supported by video tape and subsequent criminal convictions.) I’ll tell you why. Because this has nothing to do with long lines or procedural problems, and everything to do with political power.

Instead of whining or making up such easily-disproven conspiracy theories, maybe the Dems should consider coming up with some good ideas for a change. When you are anti-capitalist, anti-national defense, and anti-values you lose. Stop looking for electoral bugaboos and do some much-needed introspection, or else get used to getting thumped at the polls.

In the debate on the objection to the Ohio electoral count the statement was made than one man had to wait in line "ten hours" in order to cast his vote. Anyone who has waited in a long line (any crowded amusement park for example) knows the whole line moves at the same rate. Where are the thousands of others who would also have waited for ten hours? Surely for a ten hour wait they number in the thousands. And if the people ahead of this man left the line before voting because of the wait, then would the wait really have been ten hours?

Check out Knox County, Oh. Indeed, there were 7-10 hour waits. Polls closed around 4 am. I was lucky, I just waited 2hrs and 15 minutes.

Oh, but I didn’t vote in Knox County but in Franklin where 2-4 hour waits were common.

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